Working Paper

Top incomes and the glass ceiling

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This paper studies the glass ceiling by analyzing the presence of women at the top of the income distribution using tax record data reported for a sample of countries with individual taxation.

Extending most of the associated literature, the glass ceiling is examined in relation to the distribution of total incomes, thereby bringing self-employment and capital income into the picture. We show that female presence at the top of the distribution has increased, but that these changes do not seem to apply to the very top percentiles, especially in Denmark and the UK. When we look at the gradient in income as one moves up the distribution, we note that the difference between men and women has become larger in the UK, but not in Norway, although Norway displays a lower share of women in almost all top percentiles compared to the other countries in our sample. The analysis of the composition of income reveals that in the UK women have more investment income and less earned income, with the proportion from self-employment being similar for men and women over time. More dramatic changes in composition appear for Spain.